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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   209

"Now your Grisha, he is a real hero!" interrupted Ale-
xei, and seeing the girl brighten up at this he continued
in the same strain, stressing the word "your". "Your Grisha
is a real man! What am I? But your Grisha.... I suppose
he told you nothing about himself...."

"D'you know what, Alyosha? I may call you Alyosha,
mayn't I? I got used to that name from his letters. You
have no other business in Moscow, have you? Then come
to my place. I've come off duty and am free for the whole
day. Come! I have some vodka at home. Do you like vod-
ka? I'll treat you to some."

In an instant, out of the depth of his memory, there
flashed before Alexei's eyes the sly face of Major Struch-
kov, and he seemed to hear him say gloatingly: "There
you are! D'you see the kind she is? Lives alone! Vodka!
Aha!" But Struchkov had been so discredited that he
would not believe him now for anything. It was a long
time before evening, so they strolled along the boulevard,
chatting merrily like good old friends. It pleased him to
notice that the girl bit her lips to restrain her tears when
he told her what misfortune had befallen Gvozdev at the
beginning of the war. Her greenish eyes flashed when he
described his adventures at the front. How proud she was
of him! How furiously she flushed when she questioned
him to get more and more details? How indignant she was
when she told him that Gvozdev, for no reason whatever,
had sent her his pay certificate! And why did he run off
so suddenly? Without saying a word, without leaving a
note, or an address? Was it a military secret? But is it a
military secret, when a man goes away without saying
good-bye and doesn't write a word?

4'By the way, why did you so strongly stress the fact that
he is growing a beard?" asked Anyuta, looking at him

"Oh, just blurted it out. There's nothing in it," answered
Meresyev evasively.

"No, no! Tell me! I'll not let you alone until you do.
Is that a military secret, too?"

"Of course not! It's simply that our Professor Vasily
Vasilyevich, well ... prescribed a beard ... so that the
girls ... I mean, so that a certain girl should like him